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Okay, so we get these shirts, we wear these shirts down the collision conference and I don’t know what we’re expecting from the tee shirts. I think we thought they were funny. They would make good instagram photos, but people lost their minds like they lost it. They were like, why would you put that on a shirt? And Oh my gosh, like that’s great. Like I mean people just lost their mind. So much so that we ended up getting an article in Forbes because of this Dang tee shirt. These people saw us from an organization called creative startups and they invited us to come pitch in Albuquerque later in 2017, so we go pitch it. This competition in Albuquerque, we won and then they sent us to Copenhagen, Denmark. We pitched again and won in Copenhagen.
Jay Clouse: 00:00:42
The startup investment landscape is changing and world class companies are being built outside of Silicon Valley. We find them talk with them and discuss the upside of investing in them. Welcome to upside.
Eric Hornung: 00:01:10
Hello. Hello. Hello. Welcome to the upside podcast first podcast, finding upside outside of Silicon Valley. I’m Eric Hornung and I’m accompanied by my cohost, Mr panel-picker himself, Jay Clouse, Jay. How’s it going, man?
Jay Clouse: 00:01:25
I am waiting for good news. We have submitted a panel actually panel ideas for south by southwest this upcoming south by southwest in March of Twenty 19 and I am hopeful that we can bring some perspective from upside, some perspective that we share on the pod to one of the largest music and interactive festivals in the world.
Eric Hornung: 00:01:46
Two questions. One, have you been to south by southwest before?
Jay Clouse: 00:01:50
I’ve been to south by three times thrice.
Eric Hornung: 00:01:53
So are you going again regardless is if you get this panel or not.
Jay Clouse: 00:01:57
I’m going no matter what. I’m lucky that I am on the south by Southwest Pitch Competition Advisory Board and so I get the opportunity to go every year and I also get the opportunity to help some founders get in front of the judges at the south by southwest pitch competition. So that’s something I will certainly extend to the founders that are on the show, but if you are a founder and you’re interested in being part of the south by southwest pitch competition, do we. Let me shoot me an email, jay@upside.FM. Happy to get you guys in touch.
Eric Hornung: 00:02:26
Awesome. Well Jay, oh, I said I had a second question. Is there anything listeners can do to help with the panelpicker?
Jay Clouse: 00:02:31
Yes, you can. Thank you for asking. Eric listeners of the show, we would love for you to help us with our south by southwest panel submissions. If you go to upside.FM/sxsw for south by southwest, you will have a link where you can go and vote on our respective submissions and that would mean a lot to us. That would help us a ton. So please if you are inclined and even if you aren’t inclined, please consider being inclined to go to upside.FM/sxsw for south by southwest and we would love your support on that.
Eric Hornung: 00:03:06
So we’ll have a link to the community voting there. But what are we doing here?
Jay Clouse: 00:03:10
Here on upside, we are talking to founders outside of Silicon Valley, founders who are making a go of it and what many would consider historically to be a geographical disadvantage, but eric and I believe that it’s a wonderful time to start a company outside of Silicon Valley and so we’re talking to companies every week here on upside that are doing just that companies and the founders of those companies,
Eric Hornung: 00:03:29
and we’re going to do that using a three part structure. The first part which we’re about to dive into now is our upfront. We talk about the size of the market, competitors, things that we want to think about heading into an interview with the founder. The second part is that interview with the founder. We’re going to ask questions about them, their company, and the opportunity, and finally the third part is a debrief and we’ll talk a little bit more about that when we get there.
Jay Clouse: 00:03:54
Today we’re talking to Ashlee Ammons, the cofounder and COO of Mixtroz. Previously Ashlee has started her career as an events producer in New York City. Working with a pretty impressive group of people, which apparently includes Oprah Winfrey, Leonardo Dicaprio and Jay z, and some large brands like Moet, Hennessy and coke a cola. Mixtroz is a mobile application that makes meeting at live events easier. They make it easier, more efficient to have actual human connection in conversation with the people that you would traditionally be quote unquote, networking with at live events.
Eric Hornung: 00:04:27
Awesome. So what is your hot take first take on this company? What do you think ?
Jay Clouse: 00:04:35
hot take well, as someone who goes to a lot of events and produces a lot of events, I understand sort of the pain point. It’s certainly a more of a pain point for introverts at events like this, but as an events producer, you want the attendees of your event to have a positive experience and so if this helps me as an events producer who I believe is the customer, really, if I want my attendees to have a good experience and this helps, then I think that could be a win. I do think it creates something I want to get Ashlee’s take on is the friction of being at an event and now I take out my phone to see how I can have a human interaction. I think you know, I understand as a social lubricant and it’s making that connection. I want to hear her, what feedback she’s gotten from users in terms of using my phone to create a human interaction. A couple pieces from our research here. Company was founded in 2015. It was founded in Nashville, Tennessee and is currently based in Birmingham, Alabama. In fact, they won the rise of the rest pitch competition for Birmingham, which also apparently had more submissions than any other staff on the rise of the rest competition, so $100,000 from Steve Case and friends. I’m interested to hear about that from Ashlee as well.
Eric Hornung: 00:05:47
Maybe it’s a little bit of biased, but my hot take on the company. I think about this from going to events with professionals and lawyers and just having everyone come up to you and say, Oh, here’s my card. Here’s what I’m doing, blah, blah, blah, blah. Leaving and just feeling like that was a complete waste of my time.
Jay Clouse: 00:06:06
Mission accomplished. Told you my name, told you what I’m doing.
Eric Hornung: 00:06:09
Exactly. And those events I stay away from if there was a way, and I think law firms would be very much on board with us because they charged by their time. So there’s a very tangible amount of money attached to an hour of networking. If there was a way to kind of pair them better and if this is that way, I think it’s. It definitely does solve a pain point from both a conference put her honor and a what? What did you call that? Sorry?
Jay Clouse: 00:06:36
Event Producer. I’ve never seen a business card with conference Putter onner as the title.
Eric Hornung: 00:06:40
I, you know what? I think it sounds pretty good. Or from just organizing low key networking events across New York City and that gets us to the market size, which is. I’m not sure. What do you think, Jay?
Jay Clouse: 00:06:51
Well, the closest thing I could find here was from an article in Forbes in which Ashlee said there are one point $8 million conferences in the US per year, so we can kind of back into the market size if we ask Ashlee what the revenue model is like if they sell to a conference.
Eric Hornung: 00:07:08
Right. And that’s their total addressable market. Just selling to conferences. If there’s one point 8 million conferences per year, that’s a lot of conferences. If they take, you know, x percentage, whatever, but there’s also the potential to expand to anywhere that humans effectively interact and chaos theory exists. Some areas that I’m a little curious about kind of relates to some of the things we’ve seen on facebook, which is this idea that once you like something you see a lot more of that thing. So if I fill out a survey a certain way, am I only going to see who I want to see? That’s a question that I just have a general curiosity about because some of the most exciting conversations I’ve ever had aren’t with people who are like me. They’re with people who are completely different and I can apply some different types of thinking to my own way, whether that’s a musician or whatever. You know,
Jay Clouse: 00:08:02
there was a political scientists and I would argue a little bit of a social social psychologists on a podcast I was listening to last night who is talking about the impact social media has had on the way we connect with one. Another example he gave was he did jury duty six years ago and between parts of that duty duty between parts of that experience when there are normally be downtime and six years ago he was talking with people around him. He says, now everyone was in their phones and consuming a feed as perfectly constructed for we know you want to see this and, uh, the human call it serendipity of talking to the people around you and hoping to find a meaningful connection or talking to the point where you do find a meaningful connection seems to be decreasing. And the willingness for people to go first and bridge that gap between themselves on the subway seems to be widening. So interested to hear the trends that Ashlee seeing in this space and how Mixtroz longterm can help to bridge that gap.
Eric Hornung: 00:09:03
Awesome. Well Jay, did you find anything on competitors?
Jay Clouse: 00:09:07
I didn’t. I’m not sure that that means there’s not competitors, but I didn’t find any large name competitors to bring up.
Eric Hornung: 00:09:15
And neither did I, I think that the kind of tagline they’re going with is linkedin but live, which kind of puts them in a direct competition with linkedin. So if I’m a conference, putter onner, then I go to linkedin. Oh sorry, event producer. My bad, I forgot we’re using the technical term here. Then I go to Linkedin and I find, you know, maybe there’s 20 high profile clients coming. Okay, how am I going to sit them at tables? Will have to go through all their linkedin. See, oh this person went to marquette and this person went to northwestern. So you know, they’re from the Midwest but we’re in Florida. So maybe they can make a connection over that. And you’re kind of hypothecating all of these things. I think that that’s pretty, that’s, that could be pretty helpful. So I don’t know who their competition is specifically. Maybe Ashlee will have some more insight into that.
Jay Clouse: 00:09:57
Alright, you ready to talk to Ashlee?
Eric Hornung: 00:09:59
Let’s do it.
Jay Clouse: 00:09:59
Ashlee Welcome to the show.
Ashlee Ammons: 00:10:05
Thank you very much. I’m excited to be here.
Eric Hornung: 00:10:08
Excited to have you. We’d like to start with the founders. So can you tell us about the history of Ashlee?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:10:15
I can. I was gonna say I’ve, I’ve talked about the history of Ashlee, like more than I ever thought I would in life. And so here we go. I am from Cleveland, Ohio, or really a little small area called Lorraine Elyria, uh, that the northeastern Ohio. Most people don’t know where that is. So we just identify with Cleveland because people know where that is. Um, from there I went to, you know, I went to school there, but then when I was on my way to high school, my mom got a new job after getting her master’s degree and she moved our family to Kentucky. And at the time I was devastated because Ohio, that little bubble was all I knew. But that was probably one of the most pivotal life moments that I’ve had, just starting the process early of being open to seeing new things, adjusting to new things. Like, you know, I was very upset when it happened, but realistically I think that move just gave me so many life skills that I’m still, you know, putting into work today. So we moved to Kentucky. I finished high school there and then I wanted to go to like a USC or Ucla. Like I was really like, oh, I’m trying to get out of here. I’m like, you know, I like, I had a great family life, great time in high school. But like I was like, I want to do something different. So, um, my mom was not feeling a ucla. She was like you 17. She was like, I graduated at 17 and she was like, you’re not going to ucla. She was like, but what we can do is you can go somewhere nearish us. And then, um, after a year if you are successful, she was like, you can go wherever you want. So I thought I was gonna go to emory in Atlanta. And I wanted to study medicine, at some point I thought I was going to be an anesthesiologist, a that did not happen. And as it turns out, actually my parents, my mom got another move with the job and um, they landed back in northeast Ohio. And so then I started looking at this school called Bob Wallace College. Uh, it’s now a university, so woohoo. But Bob Wallace is in Berea, Ohio, which is literally 15 minutes from Cleveland and after a series of events, that is where I ended up in. Of course I went there for freshman year, loved it, loved the people, loved everything about it. And I stayed the rest of the time. And then I ended up, of course, like nine miles down the road from where my parents were, but because they were paying for me to be on campus, like they did not play games. They were like, no, you’re not doing laundry here. They’re like, stay say you’re behind on campus. I was like, okay, great. So I did get a very, like, live on campus feel. Um, but it was also great because, um, I was really involved in so my parents could come to campus easily and support me on the different things that I was doing. So then I would say the most notable things are, I was a very involved undergraduate. I went to college and I was like, I’m about to be involved in everything. And I, I was, I was, I was broadcasting major. But then I was in a sorority on the executive board. I was class president, I was a cheerleader. I wrote for the newspaper, I was a radio dj so I did so many different things. And then as I was getting ready to go into my, my junior year, it was like the semester before my junior year I was working on this philanthropy project’s called dance marathon and this was back in 2007. So like there was no smartphones to be found. Like this was like flip phone land, right? Like 2007. And so they paired me up randomly with, of like with a classmate of mine, he was an upperclassmen and when I saw him I was like, Oh God, he’s such a nerd. I was like, this is not going to go well. However, after he and I started like walking around together doing what we were doing, fundraising for dance marathon, we have like the most amazing conversation. And I was like, this person is me. I was like this white, nerdy guy like is me. I was like, Oh, I love him. His name is Brendan Sword. And clearly because I still know his first and last name, he had an impactful role in my life. So after Brendan and I went around asking for sponsorship dollars for this dance marathon for like two hours. So he then said to me, do you need an internship? And I was like, I do need an internship. I’m involved all over here. Like I should probably start looking at an internship. And he was like, ah, I know this woman. You’d be a great intern for her. So he made this connection and that connection actually led to me being Lebron James first intern. So like legit, we had one face to face conversation and then that happened and that completely changed the course of my life. So that is like young Ashlee in college.
Jay Clouse: 00:14:53
I got to know what this nerdy white guys connection to Lebron was.
Ashlee Ammons: 00:14:59
So the, so it’s kind of crazy. So the woman who was at the time, she still abroad has a marketing firm if called lrm are, or back then it was called lrm are marketing today. It is called lrm our ventures and it is based in Akron, Ohio. Back then it was in Cleveland. And um, the woman that he connected me to at the time was the executive assistant to the CEO. However, she never was really that title. She was more so always like a coo realistically. Um, and today she is, in fact the COO, she is the, she is like the juice behind brand Lebron 100 percent. So he introduced me to her and she had actually come from the University of Akron. She was like the number for dean at the University of Akron, so the amazing thing about that is you have this extraordinary woman who is coming over to brand Lebraun, but she has an academic background so she sees the value in wow, if I could get college, you know, college level people to be doing some of these jobs here, what a well rounded experience it could be for these college students. And so she was 100 percent bought into that and so because of that, when I joined lrm are like, I never felt like an intern, like I was doing jobs at all levels of things, you know what I mean? Like it would be like very miniscule task, but then also they gave me some real responsibility and that’s amazing because she saw the value in being able to be a part of a team like that at age 19. Like she knew how impactful that can be for somebody.
Eric Hornung: 00:16:34
When you were growing up, were you always like an overachiever? I mean it seems like you did a lot. You are like the prototypical, like overachiever in that regard. Is that something that started when you were at, as soon as you remember, or did it start when you came back from Kentucky or what? How’d that all work out?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:16:53
So this is a crazy thing. So like when I was growing up like another, I guess interesting dynamic is so my, my mom and I or my parents got divorced when I was quite young and so for a hot second it was my mom and I. So I also think that that’s a big deal. I mean obviously my mom is my business partner today, but um, when I was young, like there was a chunk of time where it was just like Ashley Rolling with Carrie, Carrie’s my mom and then she married my stepfather and this is like the early to mid nineties and my stepfather’s white. And so at the time like that was not happening. It certainly wasn’t happening in northeast Ohio. So like my parents were like trendsetters in this blended family situation and like, you know, I got a whole heap of step siblings, you know, in that. And I have a biracial brother. So like our family was always like the, what the heck is going on in that house. And so I think because of that and then I had this challenging part of my childhood where I was really trying to be like my sister, my sister was like this teeny tiny, petite blonde, blue eyed, you know, played volleyball and did all the dainty things. Like the cutest boys always wanted to date her and I just was not that like I was awkwardly tall, I was always bigger than all the other girls. Like I remember my doctor told me like I was like, I just want to be smaller. And he was like, you’re built like Serena Williams though. And I was like, okay, well, like at the time I was like, oh my God. I was like, are you serious? But now I take that as a huge compliment. But you know, I, I struggled actually, like it took me time to figure out like where I fit. And so I wasn’t like, I wasn’t in the out crowd but I wasn’t in the, in crowd. I was in somewhere in between. And I think with that move to Kentucky that helped me recognize that you can like write your own, you could write your own story, like when you go somewhere new, you can write your own story. No one knows who you were before you got there and you can be whoever you want to be moving into the new story. And so I leaned into that a lot and I think I gathered a lot of coping skills. But I think I’ve always been pretty extroverted and I’ve always been like if somebody says I can’t do something, I will chase it down until I do it. Like a great example of that is cheerleading. I am not built to be a cheerleader. Like I’m five, eight. I’m built like Serena Williams, like I’m not made to be a cheerleader but like I made it so, so like I was a varsity cheerleader four years in college. Like, you know, and I think like for my family, they were like, where did that come from? Like, you know, like what, what’s going on here? So I’ve always been just one of those people who is like whatever I set my mind toward, I’m going to figure out a way to get it done and it comes with a lot of hard work on the back end, like to become a cheerleader. Like I was cheering in my bedroom, like in my spare time, like looking in a mirror, looking at my arm, like, you know, making sure I was doing the right thing. So yeah, I mean I think I’ve always had that fire in me. And then it just specifically once I got to college it just blew up.
Eric Hornung: 00:20:00
How deep into Kentucky did you move? Did you go like Louisville or were you like in like bee spring Kentucky?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:20:07
No, so we were in Lexington. Lexington is beautiful. You University of Kentucky is there like when we first got there, like everybody, UK, UK, you can. I was like, what is that? I was like, I don’t even know what that is because you know, like I’m coming from. I’m like brutus is what I now like. That’s all I know. Ohio state, that’s it. Um, so, you know, UK especially because they don’t have any professional sports, like it was a UK crazy, you know, kind of fanatical town and it was at the time that like Toby Smith was there, so we’re like winning things and whatnot. So that was a little crazy. But Kentucky was amazing because my high school that I went to was like 10 years old. It was brand spanking new, it was beautiful, you know, all of the technologies that they had at the time were available to us for sure. I was a morning announcement person, so like I would go to school like an hour early and then I would be like an anchor on the morning news, you know. So I think that had a lot to meet, a lot to do with me, you know, wanting to go into broadcasting later. But that was an amazing move for us because northeast Ohio specifically where we were in Loraina Lyria, we were like, uh, I would say like a middle class family, like solid middle class family. We lived in a solid middle class neighborhood, lots of different people. But when my mom got her Mba and we started moving around eight, completely changed our life perspective, like we moved from middle class to upper middle class and then somewhere above that because when we moved to Kentucky, like Elyria, Ohio to Kentucky we went from like $150,000 house to like a $400,000 house. And it was like, holy crap, like I’ll never forget. And I talked to them, I talk about this with my mom driving up with the realtor to the house, they, Kentucky. And I was like, oh, we’re going to live here. Oh, word. Like I was like, is this where we are? Like, okay. So you know. And that’s an amazing thing because then immediately at that youngish age I made the connection between education and changing your life. You know, if you get behind education and continue learning, you can apply that to a career and you could completely change your life circumstance.
Jay Clouse: 00:22:15
There are a lot of different directions I want to go from here. So this is, this is hard for me to choose the path I’m going to go down. First is I would like to hear more about what you just said because your mother is your co founder with Mixtroz and we’ll get to Mixtroz here in a moment. But can you talk about what your mother was doing at this time while you were going through college and having these experiences with your internships and things?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:22:38
Yeah. So my mom has always kinda been a force to be reckoned with. Like she, she just always has. My mom has always been this spicy, vibrant, you know, black woman and I’ve always looked up to her like she’s always been a person that I can go to with anything. But she’s also like no bs. Like I’ll never forget when I was in college, math is not my jam. And so I was in a math class when I was a freshman and I remember calling my mom and I was just like talking to her and I was like, Oh yeah, school’s Great. Cheerleading’s, great sorority, awesome Dah Dah, Dah. And I was like, hm, I think I’m about to drop this math class though because I’m like not feeling it. I was like, it’s a bit much like, you know, it’s really cutting into other things. And like there was a long pause on the phone and she said okay. She said, well if you’re going to drop that math class, I’ll be dropping your tuition. So if I were you, I’d figure it out. And like that’s basically like who my mom is. Like, she’s like no game, like with so much love. But she’s no games, she has expectations, you know, for her children. And she’s like, you guys have been given so much, you guys have been able to see so much and you guys need to live to the Max of your potential. And you know, my mom, like I got to see her. Like when she was getting her Mba, she was working the night shift at Ford, she was getting her Mba and she had a house full of kids, like, you know, she had like, it was me and my stepsister, another step sister who went back and forth. And then my little brother who, um, my little brother is nine years younger than me, so we had like a toddler running around and, you know, she was getting her master’s degree and it’s funny because there was one instance I can remember in particular, we were all outside in the yard, like all the neighbors, all that. Everybody was outside in the yard. And my mom almost like literally I was in the house studying for a um, econ test that I had, you know, for the MBA. And she was like, I was literally like touching the window and cried like I want to be outside so bad, but I cannot. And you know, my mom has just always been making those kind of, you know, I feel like sacrifices to drive, drive things forward. So with that, once my mom got her Mba, my dad, my stepdad actually went ahead and retired. So I have always had life flip flop. My stepdad has always been the stay at home parent, like the get a dinner on the table parent. And my mom has always been the parent coming in from work. And then, you know, traveling quite extensively for these jobs that she’s had. So she grew to be a global HR director. She actually led a HR transformation, human resources, a transformation for 120,000 employees. So like, she’s no joke.
Eric Hornung: 00:25:21
So you, you obviously respect your mom. She sounds amazing. And how did you come about to starting a company with her? What’s that conversation even look like?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:25:31
Yeah, like exactly. Like where did that come from? So to get there, I have to explain that after. So after I graduated from college, I had always wanted to live in New York, like I could show you guys like I have a tattoo of New York, I’m a rist, like I have a tattoo of the New York skyline on my wrist, which I have to say, um, I was quite heated about because I got it. And then like three months later I found out I was moving to Nashville and I was heated anyway, after I graduated from college, I stayed on with Lebron for about six months. But my goal was to get to New York. And then everybody’s like, oh, what was the New York, why did you want to live there? It is directly related to me watching sex and the city while I was in high school. That is why I wanted to go to New York. It looked amazing. I was like, oh, that’s where I need to be. That’s the only reason. And so, um, I started interviewing with companies in New York because I didn’t want to move to New York without a job and then come back, like I didn’t want to move there for three months and then run out of money and then come back like I want it to like actually move there and be there. So I did six months of I would get an interview and then I would like put all my little money together. I was determined to do this by myself without the assistance of my parents. So I will put my money together and I would like buy a ticket on like, like a crazy airline. Airtran. Like I would buy like, oh, buy my little ticket and flat accurate and gets a little guardia. And I would have this awful suit and like I would go to these interviews and so I had three interviews. One was at img, one was at, it was img. Oh Ralph Lauren. And one was with a company called strategic group. And so the first to img and Ralph Lauren did not work out for whatever reasons today I’m like, thank the Lord. Those did not work out. But my last one was with this company called Strategic Group. And my interview was actually, I actually dropped the suit for this one. I think I just wore a dress. I was like, it’s not working, like let me wear a dress. And it was in a nightclub. I went to a nightclub during the day and like I walk in and I remember like the sticky, like I was walking in and it was just like squeak, squeak, stick, stick. I was like, Oh, this is disgusting. Like I was like, oh, I don’t know that I’m going to be able to work here. But I did those interviews and by the time I got back to Cleveland, they had called me and offered me the job. So that was amazing. So the job was executive assistant to the CEO and so what I didn’t realize then, what I know now is being an executive assistant is probably one of the best jobs ever to prepare you for entrepreneurship because you’re responsible for so many different things. You’re meticulous, you know, you’re following up, you’re making sure things are right, you know, just all those skills that you can apply later. So long story short with strategic group, the man that I worked for, his name is Noah tepperberg. I’m one of the best, most amazing bosses I had, but I do describe the experience as devil wears Prada but with a man. But he was like super nice and he and I as personalities got along amazingly. But I literally did everything for him. Everything to do with his business life and personal life. And for people who don’t get that executive assistant to CEO kind of relationship. Like I had a line of credit in his name. His House keys were on my house keys, like I had access to everything. I managed his drivers, his different homes, like all this kind of thing and then as I grew in that company I would get to start working on events and I recognized that I had a knack for events. So in five years I went from Executive Assistant to director of events over the whole company and then my last two years in New York I actually transitioned and I worked for Moet Hennessy, managing all their brand activations from $5,000 upwards of a couple million dollars. So my background pivoted from wanting to be an anesthesiologist to broadcasting to event production, you know, and now brand marketing. So that’s the setup for where we are. So in about 2014 I went to a conference and this is the point where I’m like living pretty comfortably in New York. I’m like, I liked my life, like my friends, things are going well and I went to this conference because I wanted to make more connections outside of like nightlife and spirits and the, you know, the industry areas that I was in. I wanted more contact in like fashion and beauty. So I go to this conference and over lunchtime the event organizer says go up to someone with the same colored dot on their name tag as you. And I was like, that’s the networking. I’m like, this is so awkward because it was like all women’s conference and the name tag always is on the breast, right? Like it’s always on the breast, like, and so that means you have to go up to some woman like look at her breasts and be like, Oh, I’m yellow, your yellow, let’s talk about being yellow. And I was like, no, I’m not doing that. Like specifically, I’m super cool. I live in New York. I’m not doing that. So I did it and then I had a conversation with my mom about that and she let me have it because she was like, you paid to go to the conference. She’s like, it didn’t meet anybody. What a waste of time, money. And literally it was that one conversation on November ninth, 2014 that led us recognize that there was a problem, there was a problem at events that when you go to events, what happens next? How you actually connect with people in a way that makes sense. And that was when we went down this entrepreneurial rabbit hole. So you know, at that point I was living in New York City. My mom was living in Nashville, Tennessee.
Eric Hornung: 00:30:47
So this might be a good time to put what is Mixtroz in your own words
Ashlee Ammons: 00:30:55
for sure. So mixed rose is a technology. We are a software that drives event attendees from their phone to face to face in real time and by doing that we’re able to increase engagement and we collect data. So we like to think of ourselves like linkedin but live
Jay Clouse: 00:31:13
talk to you about who the customer is for Mixtroz, I think I have an idea but I’d like to hear from you.
Ashlee Ammons: 00:31:18
Yeah. So currently we have three entry verticals, so we are in conference and conventions and clearly that is a very wide vertical. So we go as small as 25 and then upwards of it could be a couple thousand people at a conference. Um, then we’re in higher education. So we do orientations and Greek life and we can take classroom sections that are large and make them smaller. I’m into project teams. That’s actually a use case that we worked on with Georgia Tech. And then the last vertical, uh, that we have is business enterprise and this plays on my mom’s hr background. We’re living at a time where the unemployment rate is quite low and so it is important to make sure that your workforce inside your organization feels engaged with one another. They need to feel like a community because when that happens, um, productivity goes up and things like absenteeism goes, go down and it leads to, um, bottom line profitability basically. So it’s higher ed conferences and business enterprise. Those are the ones that we play in currently. But as you can imagine, we have a ton of use cases for Mixtroz anywhere we’re 25 or more people are coming together. That is a great use case. Opportunity for Mixtroz
Eric Hornung: 00:32:32
What’s the product mix for those three customers right now? Are you 90 percent in one and then exploring the others or is kind of split evenly?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:32:40
That’s a great question. So you know, a lot of people, investors, they’re like, okay, why three? And I’m like, because we’ve been selling in our product equally actually to the three of those. So there hasn’t been like a lead at vertical established by the market, which is why we can, we continue to dabble across all three. I do believe a were about to migrate our business to be a software as a service company, which is very exciting and I do believe like the enterprise vertical, like I see a spark there, so that may be our lead vertical, but again, like as an entrepreneur, I just listened to what the market is telling me.
Eric Hornung: 00:33:16
So you’re, you’re saying that you’re looking at a sas model and you guys might be migrating to it. How does Mixtroz currently make money and how’s that? How might that change?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:33:25
Yeah, so we up until this point have been operating a technology as a concierge service basically because you know, it’s been a lag in funding so that we can take continued development and that sort of thing. So today when someone wants to book a mixture is that they contact us, which is, and I say us, my mom or I, and then we work with them to set up the questions that they’re going to ask in APP and all these you know, and all the different customizations and whatnot that we can do. What we’re working towards is our customer will be able to go online themselves, kind of like event bright or mailchimp or survey monkey and they’ll be able to set up their own mix themselves. There’ll be able to launch their mix themselves and then they’ll be able to pull their data in real time. So this goes from a very high touch business who a very low touch business, which means that we can scale, which is exciting.
Jay Clouse: 00:34:18
Can you talk to me about your team? Obviously it’s your mother in you. How does the development on the APP work now? How has it worked in the past and how will it be working in the future?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:34:28
We literally are a two person team. We have been since we started in 2014, in 2014. So we came up with the idea for Mixtroz November 2014 when I came home for the holidays in December, I thought that I was going to be coming home for like family holidays and actually my mom and I had like a 10 day think tank and over the course of that think tank, I remembered that ces, the consumer electronic show was about to happen in Vegas. And that happens like the first or second week of January. So I had mentioned it to my mom and I said, oh we should go to this next year, like 2016, not 2015. And my mom was like, actually I’m going to go this year. So because I had a full time job and my mom was at the time taking a sabbatical from work. She went to ces by herself. Like this black lady from Nashville. She’s like, what? And cowboy boots. And she happened to sit down at a table where for the one of the lunches or whatever it was, and they were two beers there at the table that she went to. And she was like, well, who leaves their beer? Like just unattended in 2015, like who would do so she sat down and you know, just kinda was like watching the room and she says that she was thinking to herself like, mixture, it will be amazing right now because I feel so awkward. She was like, you know, I’m one of the few people of Color, um, one of the few women specifically in her age demographics, she’s like, I’m really feeling alone with that and like I don’t know how to connect with people here. She was feeling very fish out of water. And so then shortly after that to older white gentleman came to the table and they sat with her and so they ended up having a conversation and she’s like, well why did you guys pick to come over here? She was like, were you feeling like age connection or whatever. And they were like, these are our beers actually. And those two gentlemen have been our APP developers since 2015. So that’s how we met our APP developers. And what’s interesting about that is we priced out people locally here in Nashville, but it was very cost prohibitive. We would go, you know, tell them about Mixtroz, what we were thinking and they will be like, oh well, you know, we can start at $30,000 a week for Dev, and then we were like $30,000 a week. We’re like, what are you talking about? And um, you know, in meeting these gentlemen, they live in El Dorado hills, California there with the Dev shop called APP Nexeo. They have literally been with us since the very beginning and we just frankly would not be as far as we are without them because they bought into what we were building. They bought into us as entrepreneurs and clearly that relationship has just strengthened over time. Like you know, they see us grinding, they see us hustling and you know, they bought in on that. And so we make an excellent team with them. You know, a lot of times when you’re raising money or pitching your business or whatever, there’ll be like, oh, you don’t have an internal cto. More like, we don’t just yet, but we’re at this competition that y’all are pitching at. So what’s your point?
Eric Hornung: 00:37:27
I think it would be fun to kind of turn to the product itself and kind of give the listeners a feel for what, what that looks like. Jays our real product guy on the product questions, but can you just kind of give us an overview and maybe we can dig into some of the product questions?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:37:44
Yeah, I would love that actually. Um, so I think for me like one of the best things to do is explain a use case for Mixtroz. I think that helps people. It helps it sink in their heads. So we’re gonna pretend that the three of us are going to a conference today and let’s say that the event wants to use mixed rose to do their lunchtime seating. That’s one of our favorite use cases for Mixtroz. So when we get to the event, the event organizer will say, download and launch mixture. Is that how you will get your lunchtime seeding? We find that when we sell it into the event organizer, this way it gives them skin in the game because they pay for it regardless of how many downloads we get, like they give us an estimate of how many people they think should use it and then that’s what they pay no matter the number of downloads and because of that it makes the event hosts want to be like use Mixtroz, use Mixtroz, use Mixtroz. So we get buy in from the event host, which helps our user adoption immensely. So we all go in, we download and we launched the APP, make sure that this location based so it locks into your phones, latitude and longitude. So if you stayed at the hotel and didn’t come to the event, you wouldn’t be able to access mixture. You have to be onsite at the event to access mixtures. So you launch it, it brings up a branded event for you. And then you start your virtual name tags. So your virtual name tag is your name, your email address, and snapping a selfie. The selfie is the funniest thing to watch people do because everyone knows how to take a selfie. People get mad, uncomfortable though taking a Selfie, but the Selfie is essential because people look vastly different. We found through Beta testing and what they show you on Linkedin or facebook opposed to what’s happening in real life that day of the event. So a Selfie is just the easiest identifier for us to use. So then after that you enter a question series and this is the part that makes mixture. It was unique. So there are 10 questions inside of Mixtroz that kind of function as a survey and it’s variable for every mix because every mix wants to know different things about different groups of people. So the event organizer gets to pick these 10 questions and then you as the attending answer them and so between the virtual name tag and answering the questions, it shouldn’t take you longer than two and a half to three and a half minutes, somewhere in there. And then after that point you are done and you can continue on with whatever is next in the event. You know, in the event programming, so if it’s to go here, keynote speaker or whatever it is, you go do that and then about 10 minutes before and lunchtime everyone at the events simultaneously gets a push notification and we show you the group that you’ve been placed in and where you will be meeting that group. So for these purposes it would be the table that we’re sitting at at lunch. So you go to the table that matches up with what you saw on your phone and then you have these people there. And so one important note is we do group networking so we will never match you one to one. One to one can be very uncomfortable. Like if y’all don’t hit it off, one to one is hard to escape from. But if you’re in a group of at least three that’s more comfortable and you can really find your stride. And then once everyone gets to the table we can take it a step further and give either you know, a directive or we can just give you icebreakers to kick off the conversation. And where the magic happens. For me as a founder is once people get into these groups and everybody kind of leans into the discomfort of networking for a second, humanity kicks back in and you see people like leaning in and they’re touching each other’s shoulders and you know, they’re really getting to know one another. Another thing that we always notices when mixtures is activated, the volume and the room goes up exponentially because instead of people who already know each other, just having conversation, people are like, oh my gosh, you’re from, Oh, I’m from what I mean, if it gives me the sincerest joy to see people do that,
Eric Hornung: 00:41:29
do you have data on that? On the volume actually going up. That’d be funny.
Ashlee Ammons: 00:41:33
I was going to say, I feel like it’s something I need to like measure that’s from our very unscientific are unscientific. Like oh wow, look at this happening. Um, and then another thing I’ll mention is while that’s great, so the, what I just described to you is the engagement going up at an event. Right? And so when engagement goes up at an event, that’s amazing because when you’re a more engaged attending, it drives you to purchase, donate, continue support, all those things that event organizers want to happen, increased engagement can do that. And then on the other side of that, those questions that you answered it in the event host gets access to that data in real time. So basically what happens now on our platform is a visualization of the data comes up, you can see who is grouped with whom and then how people answer these different questions. So like if you have that data available for whomever is speaking in the afternoon after lunch, that’s amazing because they can glance at the data and actually see who’s there and what they want to know about. And then of course the event organizer gets to keep that data, you know, to do what they want to with it. And the other thing is Mixtroz this does not collect third party data. We only use the data that the attendee puts in the phone in real time. And that’s interesting because my mom and I don’t have technology backgrounds, so when we heard about third party data and all the data you could get, we were like, Ooh, that’s creepy, let’s not do that. So we didn’t. And so when all of this Cambridge analytica madness started, we had already jumped that hurdle because we came from Mixtroz from a human perspective rather than a tech technical perspective.
Jay Clouse: 00:43:10
One real quick question on the product front, you mentioned that people get a push notification about who they’re being matched with that randomized or do you have some method of matching people?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:43:21
Oh yeah. So it goes through an algorithm. So we do have like a proprietary algorithm that of course as we continue to scale will get more sophisticated. But in addition to that, the event organizer has the option to wait each question positively negatively or not at all. So to illustrate that, let’s say we were doing a mix for Greek life on campus. We would say on the first question, make the groups diverse on which sorority or fraternity that you’re in, but similar on your major areas of interest, extracurriculars, etc. So now you have a mix of people from different, um, sororities and fraternities, but they’re into the same things which creates more connection.
Jay Clouse: 00:43:59
Something else that you mentioned that I want to get some clarification on. you said the event organizer, when they engage Mixtroz is paying on a basis of how many people, I think you said should download the app. Can you talk about that revenue model a little bit more specifically?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:44:15
Yes. So currently for mixed rose and we’re testing pricing on our sas platform, but the way that it works currently is each mixed cost a minimum of $500. So that $500 gets you the inap customization. You’re able to ask whatever questions you want the data on the back end and your first 35 attendees after 35 attendees, we price per person on a decreasing scale. So for example, a mix for a 100 attendees is 1280, 1,280. Does That help you need a little more.
Eric Hornung: 00:44:50
Very helpful, What are some of the kpis that you guys pay attention to?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:44:55
It’s like, I mean, user adoption is a big one for sure. So in the mixes that we’ve done, because of selling it in this way and also group think the group think phenomenon affects Mixtroz quite positively because think about it, when you go to a conference people, oh there’s like a herd mentality. People do what the majority of people are doing. So as long as you can get like the first adopters to get into the app, then people will start clamoring to get in it as well. Because what we. We actually had to build a feature so that late comers could be added to groups because what would happen is people would be in their groups and then somebody will be like, oh I didn’t get in and now I want to get in. And so they will get put in a group. But the group itself wouldn’t see that this person had been added. And so then grown people will be like, I’m sorry mark, you’re not in our group. So like have a good day. And we were like, oh my gosh. No. So that’s like the ugly side of human nature. So we had to make a feature so that late late comers can be added in groups and then everyone sees the addition to the group and then they accept, they accept them in the group is very like lord of the flies the way that worked out. I was like, oh my gosh. I was like, y’all are, you know, very cutthroat. but we do observe 80 percent or higher user adoption at our events, extraordinarily high for an event technology.
Eric Hornung: 00:46:16
And that’s, that’s calculated as downloads divided by estimated or how’s that calculated?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:46:23
yeah downloads by how many people are there, like how many attendees actually showed up
Jay Clouse: 00:46:29
Ok so weve got user adoption as a kpi. Is there anything else you guys are tracking closely internally?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:46:33
Well, because we’re a two person team at this point, I mean that’s the biggest one to us and I mean the bigger thing is for us having our client have the aha moment is the most amazing part because you know, what we recognize and this is something that we’ve recognized over doing this for years and also going through accelerators and different things like that. Our best sales mechanism for mixtroz is actually having people use it because when people use it will. We’ve recognized that there’s a natural virality to mixed rows, so if we activate mixtroz at a tedx, for example, at tedx, all of our customers are at a tedx because you have educators, you have employers, and you have people who throw events themselves and so what happens is they’ll experience mixtroz and they’ll be like, oh, I’m going to take this to my chamber, I’m going to take this to my school or whatever. So we naturally generate warm leads every time rose is activated, and so that’s a process we know as we continue to scale, we’re going to need to have it happening faster and more often to keep this machine going. So our biggest kpi, one of our biggest kpis is how many leads warm leads do we get off activating a single mix.
Eric Hornung: 00:47:47
So when you get a warm lead, you get someone in. you said the best sales mechanism is getting people on. What percentage of customers are returning to do this? a second, thIrd, fourth, fifth time?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:47:57
Yes. well, so you have to keep in mind like up until this point, basically everything we’ve done can be classified as beta because we’re not doing this, you know, on a scale technology product. We’ve not yet seen what mixtroz does it scale. Right. So the fact that we’ve been able to acquire customers and then they’ve been able to repeat like is amazing. So the way that we’ve been calculating our repeat customers is anyone who has done them next who is rebooked and mix, so not necessarily are the people who haven’t rebooked, they’re not necessarily out of our funnel, they just haven’t rebuilt yet. So we have about a 30 percent rebooking on this beta product, which is amazing. And in fact baldwin wallace, this will be their third year using mixtroz, to do their orientation and actually they’re our largest mixed to date because it’s like 700 freshmen students at once, which is something that is something to see. Like
Eric Hornung: 00:48:53
talk to me a little bit about the sales funnel because You’re going after enterprise and conferences and higher ed. those are larger institutions. They generally move a little slower and maybe the cost to acquire a new customer.
Ashlee Ammons: 00:49:06
Yeah. Well here’s the. This is the part that makes birmingham, and I know we haven’t like jumped into birmingham yet, but like for all those who don’t know, I’m a big advocate and love our birmingham. Um, and I say that because a lot of the customers of ours who are likely to move over to our sas version very quickly, they are coming from the birmingham market because what we’ve discovered in birmingham as a southeastern startup, they have really figured out in birmingham how civic should work with corporate, should work with the tech ecosystem. And they have kind of lowered their barriers to entry for a startup. Like for a startup, I can’t wait net 60 or 90 or 120 to get paid. And the enterprise is in birmingham, understand that, which has allowed our business to move a lot faster. So I mean, enterprises that I’m working with, there are huge ones like Alabama power regions, bank, bba, compass. UAB would university of Alabama at birmingham. So I mean these are really big customers who have bought into what we’re selling with mixtroz for sure. They’ve been able to use the product, they like it and now it’s the process of taking the buzz that we have with them and moving them to sas so we can establish reoccurring revenue because right now all the mixes that we’ve done to date are like one off, like you pay to use mixtroz one off and then that’s it. Like there’s no in it yet. So that’s what we’re scaling towards.
Jay Clouse: 00:50:30
So I’d like to hear a little bit more about the sas pitch. If you’re talking to an investor, how do you quantify the market and these verticals and what that means for a sas model?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:50:42
Yeah. You know, we really, again, we look at mixtroz as the, what’s next. And so specifically, very recently it got a lot easier for me to quantify the event technology market because it’s funny, you know, people look at event technology and they’re like, oh, that’s whimsical. And I’m like, no, it’s really not. I was like, there’s a ton of money to be made in event technology. So event brite last week, file to ipo and so now when I’m going into investor meetings like I lead with that because we are a natural partner of event bright because of that bright actually has an open api that nixed rose can integrate into. So that will be a way for people to continue to find that they’ll like book something on event brite and then these options become available. Like what else would you like to do at your event? And mixtroz is kind of a sole sole source provider there because we’re the only one doing networking groups in real time. So we’re kind of like in our own little category. So as far as quantifying it, you know, a lot of It is what we think, you know, what we think might happen. But like from my mom’s corporate background, 25 years as a senior hr leader, she can go into a regions bank for example, and tell them all the reasons why mixing is a great thing. So realistically when we go into a regions bank to sell were like mixtroz is a toll you should be using for your meeting, your sales training for your client facing events. Basically when you’re bringing people together, mixed rose should be the tool that gets used to make sure that those experiences are optimized. So you’re not just throwing money at, you know, having an event for people and then, you know, having bad chicken and bad wine and then hAving no roi like what haPPened at that event. So with mixtroz, you’re aCtually able to gather, you’re a, you’re actually able to gather some of the money that you’re spending. You know, we’re, we’re in this stage of events and whatnot where people are moving towards experiential, right? Like it’s, we’re no longer in the day or age where a sponsor wants to pay all this money to like sponsor an event, for example. And then that just means their logo gets splashed up on a wall. Like that’s not impactful for anybody. You know? How can a brand really interact with the people who are at the event and mixtroz is a tool that adds that additional layer because something I didn’t mention is specifically in that conference and convention vertical. We have enough advertising in our app and we did that specifically so that when we’re selling into a conference, we can tell them actually sell this to your title sponsor because this is an added layer for them and oh by the way, they can be present inside the app and grab that intimate brand impression out of allow them to answer or to ask one of the questions in app and then they can gather the data from that as well. And for brands, because I worked for moet hennessy, I know that his money.
Eric Hornung: 00:53:28
So talk to me a little bit about the opportunity size here. How big can this get? There’s a lot going on. There’s multiple verticals. There’s advertising, there’s a sas model, there’s all this stuff. Event bright’s could’ve probably ipo. I didn’t read the filings but probably for a couple billion dollars. So what are you looking at when you say, okay, this is the total addressable market, this is how big Mixtroz can get.
Ashlee Ammons: 00:53:50
That’s such a loaded question. I mean it’s a huge market. Like if we just think about our three entry verticals and we did this, we did the bottom up approach where when we calculate our tam, we’re looking at here’s how we price, here’s how many we think we can sell. So like in higher ed it’s like I’m a figure out a way to. It’s like $600 million in enterprise, you know, it’s like several billion like in, in, in conferences, again, several billion in our tam is 4.6 billion. That’s what we represent in our deck. And so for example, when I’m looking at conferences and conventions, I know that there is approximately one point $8 million conferences annual annually $225 million attendees at this conference. And I’m just talking about domestic, we haven’t even mentioned the fact that Mixtroz has implications outside of the us because people are meeting everywhere, right? So our, our total addressable market is quite large when I talk about enterprise, I’m specificallY looking at enterprises that have 500 or more employees. There’S about 18,000, 500 of those in the us. So again, bass market potential, but then you know, I have to, it’s a, it’s a double edged sword because as an entrepreneur I have to be very focused on the verticals that we’re in today. But like I haven’t even hit up the fact that I think that mixtroz and actually our customers think that mixtroz is, will be great at weddings because at a wedding rehearsal dinner, and I have customers coming at me with this now at a wedding rehearsal dinner. The whole point is for bride and groom to become one. Right? Except when you go to a wedding, you have everybody identifying as I’m with the bride, I’m with a group and then that becomes like a line down the middle. So if you do mixed rose, it’s very likely you’re going to be able to foster more connection, more community, and your wedding’s going to be more fun. On the other side of that, people have reached out to use mixtroz for funerals, believe it or not, because you have people coming from all ends of the earth to celebrate this person’s life and then they don’t know each other. It’s like, yes, like, how did we all know uncle larry? Like, let’S tAlk about that. You know, thiS is a great use case for that. And you know, leisure travel, another great one. We always talk about how we’re on a cruise ship. We never meet our favorite family and to the last day and then on that last day we spend the most money because we figured out there a cavs fan or whatever and they were all drinking. We talking about lebron and the good old days and whatnot. So there are so many different use cases for mixtroz. That’s why we’re excited to scale because even as you know, we expect once we launched with scale into the market, there will be some competitors who arise, but we believe that the market is large enough to support, you know, a few key players. And I, you know, I still got a couple tricks up my sleeve, like um, you know, we haven’t talked about the fact that I was Lebron’s intern of clearly I have plans down the line for that and whatnot.
Jay Clouse: 00:56:40
So you just touched on competitors. What are you seeing that seeing the way of competition right now?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:56:45
So there are companies and the, I would say, you know, like the networking engagement space who share our thesis, which that’s great, right? Because like the thesis is very strong, which is face to face. Connectivity basically trumps all other connectivity, right? so there are other people in the market who support that, but they’re doing it in different ways. In our biggest key differentiator is we connect people in groups. Group networking isn’t something I’ve seen just yet. most of the other technologies are focused on one to one. And then we also have those technologies that pop up at conferences, conferences that basically show you every single person who is attending the conference and then it’s up to you to reach out to somebody, right? Like you’re able to say, hey, I see that you’re here, can we have a time to meet up? And then you go back and forth in this awful conversation that’s like, hey, I can’t meet it two because I’m going to be in a session. What about three? And then, you know, after you put a time, it’s like, okay, where would you like to me? So mixtroz takes all the guesswork out of that because we’re already built into the programming. It’s something that it’s happening. So it’s like get on the boat, it’s happening, you know, enjoy the ride basically. So that’s the way we’ve kind of differentiated ourselves there and we think, I mean it’s a huge benefit. I feel like my mom and I are coming at mixtroz from this very unique perspective. Number one, we would be used as ourselves and number two, having expertise in human resources and event production like makes us experts on the human aspect, the human asset within events, the human asset within enterprise and etc. And we’ve just been able to build our company around that, which is great and that’s why I think we’ve been successful. We just, we understand the pitfalls, you know, both in enterprise and the event landscape and we’ve been able to kind of go around those.
Jay Clouse: 00:58:35
There’s been kind of a strong thread through this interview. Have you talking about from your, your personal path going at things as an outsider, how is that applied to you now in this new phase of your career as a female founder? How, how has that experience been for you? Is I, I would assume there are some challenges and so I just wanted to hear from your perspective, what’s that, what that’s been like?
Ashlee Ammons: 00:58:59
So there’s a name for my mom and I no joke, like someone has referred to us as quad outliers before, so that’s black female, nontechnical, tech, co founders. So like I always tell people like, all right, let’s, you know, let’s start off the conversation. They’re like, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I was like, yes, we’re two black ladies with a tech startup. Neither one of us can code. Okay, let’s now talk about the business it has. Certainly, I mean in ways like this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. In my career and like I ha, I like, my career has always been challenging and it’s always been intense. I’ve never approached any of the jobs I’ve had as jobs. I’ve always thought of them like career steps. So I was always 100 percent dedicated, you know, I was used to working 12, 13, 14, 15 hour days, you know, that was just what I was raised up on. So switching to entrepreneurship in that regard wasn’t so hard, but what I wasn’t ready for are just all the nos. Like you just hear you have to go through so many no’s, you know, before you start getting to yes at all. And I think what becomes important here is we started this business in nashville and I ended up moving to nashville because it made most sense like my parents’ biggest asset is sitting in nashville, which is this house I’m sitting in right now. So like It didN’t mAke sense to move my Parents in New York. So I moved here and then trying to, trying to get through the nashville ecosystem was hard. Like, I mean it was hard. Like today in nashville, we’re a known entity, like today I am on the board of the national entrepreneur center. My mom was on the board of the nashville technology council, but that was. That got done through our blood, sweat and tears and we were going to everything. We were making sure people knew our name, but it literally took like a year and a half for us to make any real sort of progress. Traction in Nashville. Everything was just very slow. Also, I’ve found in natural you get very accustomed to the nashville no. Which is people saying yes to things, but they actually may know which is a waste of my time. Right. So that’s what made it quite difficult to scale here. And in fact when I moved to be on mixtroz of full time in June, 2016, our first accelerator was actually in chattanooga, Tennessee. So my mom and I lived in a dorm together for summer and chattanooga, Tennessee and we completed this accelerator and we did that because nashville was not stealing us. They were just like, we, we can’t even wrap our mind around what you two may or may not be doing, and at the same time we use the resources we had, which was the google and we got out on the google and the google told us that the best place for a woman to start a business was chattanooga and we were like, well hell, that’s like two hours down the road. Like, that’s doable. So we literally moved our show to chattanooga and in doing that we went through an accelerator. We’re able to talk about the business better and then when we came back to nashville they were a bit more receptive. So I continue to say to people, one of the most important things you can do for your business is go where people feel you do not stay where people don’t feel you. That’s silly. There’s too much world that you could be in to stay where people aren’t feeling what you’re doing
Eric Hornung: 01:02:17
and you’re taking that forward, right? You’re leaving nashville, are you going somewhere that they feel you better do?
Ashlee Ammons: 01:02:24
They sure do And I’m like so excited to tell you guys about it. And I made it necessary for me to tell like if necessary for me to put it in context, they’re like give me like three minutes to give you context for why birmingham has happening. So in May, 2017 we went to collision conference in new orleans and we exhibited at collision conference. So two days before we leave collision comp or collision conference, I’m sitting there and I’m talking to my mom, we’re making sure all our stuff is packed and whatnot. And then I say hey we should probably get tee shirts made like we’re going to stick out anyway. So let’s get tee shirts made. Not mixtroz of shirts like let’s have him say something else. So where we landed was black female founder fund me and then on the back of the tee shirt it’s got seed, like seed funding like ha, okay. So we have these tee shirts made. And it’s so funny because like just the setup like where exactly were living in nashville, we live next door to a retired three star general who like, he’s pretty, he’s conservative. And so we asked his wife to make us these tee shirts and like he is like our bff, like he was like, what are the. They say, oh my god, okay. So we get these shirts, we wear these shirts down the collision conference and I don’t know what we’re expecting from the tee shirts. I think we thought they were funny. They would make good instagram photos but people lost their minds. Like they lost it. They were like, why would you put that on a shirt? And oh my gosh, like that’s like, I mean people just lost their mind. So much so that we ended up getting an article in forbes because of this dang tee shirt. These people saw us from an organization called creative startups and they invited us to come pitch and albuquerque later in 2017. So we go pitch it. This competition in albuquerque, we won. And then theY send us to copenhagen, Denmark. We pitched again and one in copenhagen and you know, thus validated Mixtroz is a global thing, which was pretty sweet. But then I would say the most impactful thing that happened is this woman saw us and she was like, oh, I love this, love what you’re doing. She ended up following us on facebook after that, and in October, 2017 she came back to us and said, hey, I’ve just been made executive director of a program in birmingham, Alabama. You guys should apply. And we were like, birmingham were like, really? Like, oh god. And we went ahead and applied for this program we got in. Upon getting into the program, the program’s called velocity. It’s out of birmingham’s innovation depot. They invested $50,000 as soon as we got into the program, which was awesome because we were running low on cash at the end of 2017. So we get this cash infusion and then we also get this grace while we’re in the velocity program to figure out why our machine is working. we knew mixtures was working but we could not verbalize the why, you know why. and so we got to do, you know, sprint testing and agile project management to really understand mechanics of our business. And so that’s what we did. So at the beginning of 2018, from january to april, we were in this accelerator program and so we literally got an apartment in birmingham. We are living in downtown birmingham living and working there, you know, meanwhile my dad is still in our house in nashville, you know, trying to keep up with the home base and whatnot. And then while we were in birmingham, rise of the rest happens. So steve case’s rise of the rest competition came through birmingham, had no idea what rise of the rest was, was not familiar and nothing like that. And then we ended up winning the thing and you know, we get $100,000 cash investment from that and now we are about 50 percent subscribed on a $1,000,000 round of funding, which is insane because, uh, you know, this time last year I was like, oh snap, what’s about to happen with mixtroz because it just was not moving fast enough. And now we’re in this place where we’re about to close a million dollar round. And upon close, my mom and I will be the 37th and 38th black females who ever closed a million dollar round of funding. And while that’s impressive, that statistic is so sad, like, you know, why are we in double digits because 2018 like come on now, but you know where, where jazz for like where our company is going and only because of birmingham and the fact that we were able to make a year and a half worth of progress in about 13 weeks in Birmingham is that so, so birmingham the community has really figured out that, you know, they were known for iron, like sos furnaces is a huge thing there. So like you know, they had that industry and then they went through a banking industry phase and then the recession hit and the bottom fell out, you know? And so things started looking a little crazy. Birmingham, like their downtown was deserted and all these different things. And now they’re coming up on a renaissance. And so birmingham for us feels like national eight years ago. And that’s when my parents got to nashville when it first started blowing up and so now we all know where nashville is today and we feel like birmingham is in that similar spot and they have recognized that tech and diversity in tech and bringing diverse voices to tech is a way that they can grow birmingham as a city forward and with us joining them at this point, we have this interesting opportunity to really add a layer to the narrative that’s going to be told in birmingham moving forward and it’s very exciting and in addition to that, there are a lot of black and brown young people in birmingham and frankly they need to see black and brown people doing what they can do so they can relate to that, understand it, and also add to the ecosystem themselves. So we’re just. I were ecstatic to be able to be a part of what’s going on in birmingham and lasted. Lastly, I’ll say birmingham has a mayor. His name is mayer randall woodfin. He is like 35 or 36 year old black guy. He’s an attorney and he has just brought this, this, you know, he’s, he’s exciting and he’s excited and he’s excited for technology, big advocate of technology and it’s just amazing to see that happening in a city like birmingham because you know, people think birmingham and they think civil rights and you know, it’s like they are really weaving their new narrative and they have really got huge buy in from everybody on that.
Jay Clouse: 01:08:36
Eric and I are about as close to your traditional insider as we could be. Right. So my question for you, you know, as we see rise of the rest as we see arlene with backstage capital or our friends at harlem capital in New York from the inside, it seems like things are getting better and the tide shifting a little bit, but I have no perspective on just how bad things were. So I’d like to hear from you if you think things are getting easier for you as an, as a quad outsider and what that trend lines where it looks like for the future.
Ashlee Ammons: 01:09:09
Yeah, I mean I think it’s getting better, but let me tell you, it’s still hard and it’s still kicking my behind everything all day. Let me just say that like this, this road that my mom and I have chosen is not, it’s not for the faint of heart, like what’s the lever, but what I do know is my mom and I are freaking resilient. And one thing I didn’t share with you guys is actually are in this journey. My mom was actually diagnosed with breast cancer, so we had a, we had a little breast cancer pause slash fight in the middle of this journey. My mom, god willing is cancer free today. But like I literally watched this woman go to radiation every day, have the surgery, all of this. And like she, she would like call me being like going to mixtroz meetings and she’d be like, I’m, I’m on my way to tanning. That’s what she called radiation, which I didn’t think was funny at the time. It’s funny now, but it wasn’t funny then. Um, and she, you know, and I just saw her and I was like, man, I cannot ask for a better cofounder than somebody who gets dealt that hand. It’s all she’s worried about is moving this business for. She legit went into surgery telling her doctor about mixtroz because he was talking about a doctor conference and she was like trying to sell in while she was on the gurney. And I was like, okay, I really need to refocus my mind. So whatever the market is doing, we have just figured out a way to do things different. This whole, um, this whole journey for us has not been by the book. There is no book for this. We have just figured it out. We have hustled ourselves to death and we have figured it out. And I think that there are people in the ecosystem like arlin. And it’s so funny because I just connected with folks at harlem capital. There are people like that who have that same mentality. It’s like whatever we’re doing, we can’t do it the same as anybody else because we’re different. Embrace that and figure out what your different path is going to be to get where you’re trying to go. You know, that’s, I mean, I think that’s the, that’s the key to what we’re entering this new phase and entrepreneurship and everything about it is new and we need to chart new paths. The hopes that I have is in the trials and tribulations that I have faced here. You know, people, us going to tech conferences and people walking up to my mother and asking her to go get them a gin and tonic. That happened. People asking me questions and pitch competitions like, oh, how was working for Lebron? Instead of asking me about my business. Like, you know, those kinds of things. All I can hope is that for the next generation of a diverse, colorful founders that are coming behind me, I hope that their road is a little bit more. Let me not Say easier because this road is, it’s hard, but more direct. Like I just hope that they’re able to get where they’re going a little bit faster than I am and then that means I’ve done the job, but we’re certainly not. We’re certainly not there yet.
Eric Hornung: 01:12:04
Well Ashlee, we are running up on time and I think we could talk to you for another five hours, but I want to say thank you for coming on. Where can people find out about you, Mixtroz, and your mom. Where’s the best place to find you?
Ashlee Ammons: 01:12:18
So we’re all over the place so you can definitely go to Mixtroz.com. You can follow us online at Hello Mixtroz. We are always posting things about just how we’re doing, what we’re doing and all kinds of behind the scenes. My mom is not a fan but you can, um, you can follow us there and you can actually just reach out to us. Hello@Mixtroz.com.
Jay Clouse: 01:12:42
Great. Thanks for being on the show.
Ashlee Ammons: 01:12:44
Jay Clouse: 01:12:49
Eric. We just talked to ashley of Mixtroz, What are we about to do here? In what may be my favorite segment of the show?
Eric Hornung: 01:12:56
Maybe I thought you said that it is your favorite segment. Now you’re hedging.
Jay Clouse: 01:13:00
Uh, yeah. Well, I mean, I hate to say that I don’t love talking to the founders and more than anything else, but this is where I feel like I really, really drill home some of the thesis of the podcast which is learning, learning to think. Y
Eric Hornung: 01:13:13
So this is where we learn to think. This is jay and I kind of putting our thoughts together on the company, the founder of the opportunity and doing it in a way where we can kind of crystallize our thinking and look back in six to 18 months and say, this is what we thought about this opportunity at this time. The deal memo is based on the idea that if we were a venture capital fund or an angel fund, we would have lps and we will be making decisions on a company one way or another. We would be sending those decisions to our lps to say yes, no. Here’s the upside. Here’s the downside and what we’re doing here is just a little bit different version of that.
Jay Clouse: 01:13:56
That’s right. We’re going to refer about 20 minutes trying to answer four questions, whether explicitly talking to them or implicitly talking about them and those questions are one, how committed is this founder? two what are the founders chances of success in this and in life? Three, what does winning look like in terms of revenue and my return in for why has this founder chosen this business? So eric, we usually start by talking about the founder. WhaT was your impression of ashlee?
Eric Hornung: 01:14:26
Well, it’s kind of weird because I, I feel like I met her mom as well through this interview. Do you feel that?
Jay Clouse: 01:14:31
I totally felt that.
Eric Hornung: 01:14:33
It’s weird because we, it’s ashley and her mom, their co founders, so I guess we can kind of talk a little bit about. Both of them will focus on ashley, but we should definitely mention her mom as we go through these questions. Ashley is super energetic, super driven. I had very, like, I had a very good feel that ashley was going to be the kind of person who would push forward an idea, um, and would get what she wants.
Jay Clouse: 01:15:02
Totally. The phrase actually used was quad outsiders to describe her and carry her mom and that’s something they’ve been fighting really their whole lives probably in some form or another, but definitely for the last four years with this business. And so I think that creates this resilience and resolve that we saw with ashlee at times through the interview, which I think is really, really positive. The shadoW that I’m most afraid of is the technical ability. I think that the story of kerry sitting down at a conference in me, a couple of guys who became their lead engineers is a powerful story. It’s a good story. It’s gotten them to where they are now as somebody who has built and run a technology company without a technical cofounder. I have told myself since that time I would never do it again. It is so hard and expensive and not, you know, besides just having somebody on hand who can constantly be working on this as their full focus and making progress as fast as you can. Having a technical founder really helps with having somebody aligned with the incentives. They have the same incentives as you do for building something out and to have a hired gun doing that. Even if that hired gun has some equity, if it’s not their full time focus, it’s just not optimal and it’s hard to, from an investment side of things, take a bet on something that’s not optimal when there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of other companies who have that box checked. Did you have any thoughts on that?
Eric Hornung: 01:16:39
I guess my thoughts on that are there was a little hint in there that they were looking at hiring a cto, so to the extent that they’ve been kind of finding product market fit and developing this idea and finding these three verticals that they’ve talked through and met with people on and sold actual. I think she called them beta pilots. I don’t think it’s been a big deal through now. The question is really into this next phase, how serious are they about bringing on someone technical, whether that’s a cto or a director of whatever, because to get from beta to something that is scalable and national and all of those things, I do think you need everything that you just kind of lined up. It doesn’t bother me to this point.
Jay Clouse: 01:17:28
You want to move fast. You don’t want to pay hourly, you don’t want to pay hourly for somebody who just doesn’t care about the product as much as you do intrinsically like there’s no way that a hired gun can care about it at the same level. So I would agree. I mean, I’m not saying it would be a no for me at this time, but you know, the old saying, what’s gotten you here won’t get you where you’re going. I feel like that’s sort of the case for a technology company that doesn’t have a full time. Whether it’s co founder level or not cto.
Eric Hornung: 01:17:55
Well, they don’t have a fulltime anything except for two founders.
Jay Clouse: 01:17:58
Yeah, but it’s apparent to me hearing about carrie’s background and the way that she’s lived her life in the way that ashley has been raised, seeing that, that it’s a very powerful founder story to me and really speaks to the dedication of carrie and ashlee, aside from all of the other things that actually told us that we’re great indicators. How involved she was in college. This amazing experience you had as lebron’s first intern, which was like this fascinating rabbit hole that I had to fight myself from going down because that was not the reason that we were here.
Eric Hornung: 01:18:32
Yeah, and that’s a good thing that you did because I don’t know how relevant outside of the work experience she got. Anything related to lebron james’s to this context right now.
Jay Clouse: 01:18:42
Right. So I get the sense that both of them are committed. I think both of them will be successful in life. This business, I think my biggest question just hinges on what can we do to shore up and de risk, the technical challenges moving forward and I think, you know, that’s a pretty simple solution as long as they’re open towards it. And her working towards it.
Eric Hornung: 01:18:58
Yeah. Committed is an understatement. I can tell you that if I had cancer and was on the operating table, I wouldn’t be selling upside to people. I can almost guarantee that
Jay Clouse: 01:19:10
Well you know don’t rule it out.
Eric Hornung: 01:19:13
Regardless of me that it is super impressive is that kind of dedication that through breast cancer and not just that one anecdote, but just in general, it was still something that was so much on the forefront of carrie’s like mind and carries being like this is, this is what they want to do. And they see this as a monstrous opportunity.
Jay Clouse: 01:19:33
Last thing I’ll say on the founder front, what I think is a very, very positive thing for being quote unquote quad outsiders. They are owning that and stepping in front of it and being loud about it. This unhidden figures hashtag that Ashlee’s uses, you know, the shirt that says black female founder fund to me, you know, they, they are out there in front saying look at us. And I think for someone who’s fighting against the odds, you’ve got to be vocal and you’ve got to just keep running. You know, keep going after it and keep getting told no, but until you get to that. Yes. So that’s uh, so the last note I’ll have there. You ready to talk about market opportunity?
Eric Hornung: 01:20:12
Let’s talk a lIttle bit about market opportunity. They did a bottoms up analysis which got them to, for their three major verticals, four point $6,000,000,000 of total addressable market in the United States.
Jay Clouse: 01:20:26
Does that seem decent size to you? Big, small. Where’s that fall? I think that’s big enough. Again, a lot of the tImes this comes down to fund economics and how big is the market need to be so that an opportunity can return your fund as an early stage angel or an early stage vc with a fund that’s not hundreds of millions of dollars. I think this is big enough, but you know what I, what I want to talk about one, I love bottoms up approaches. So check the box. Big fan of bottoms up approaches. I don’t have a question of whether or not there are enough buyers. My biggest question comes down to the model and it sounds like they’re in a position right now where they’re starting to change the model and move from this concierge model to a sas model, which I think is very smart in what this needs to do
Eric Hornung: 01:21:16
and why do you think that’s smart?
Jay Clouse: 01:21:18
Well, it needs to be scalable. Concierges models just aren’t scalable. As somebody who’s put on a ton of events and organize a ton of events for different organizations, some with budgets, some without budgets, the price point. I think we’ll rule out organizationS who would be excited about using this and be good advocates for the product because it’s a little high. From my perspective as a an event organizer. If the minimum costs was $500, we’ll say for a group of what it was like 25 people, then I need to know that that’s how that’s gonna fit into my budget. For a group that small. Usually there’s just next to no budget and you’re trying to figure out how do we cover water and and a soda for this event. She mentioned event bright, which is proving that event software can do super successful in this space and I totally agree. I think it works super well with event bright in a world where they either partner or integrate and work together as an event organizer who uses event bright, I have no problem using event bright event bright is making me money and it’s taking a small percentage of the money that I’m bringing in as a human. My loss aversion is not kicking in the same way because I’m only paying for what I am making as opposed to paying separate from a revenue or an income stream.
Eric Hornung: 01:22:39
So what do you think the sas model is going to look like? I know they’re still flushing it out and this might be hypothecating a little bit.
Jay Clouse: 01:22:46
I think it’ll probably be usage based if I were to. If I were to guess and we should’ve. We should’ve asked more messages or more questions about that, but if it’s going to be self serve. So if I as an event organizer go in and talk about my event, I’d probably choose a number of attendees or maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s based upon how many attendees enter the system and it charges you based on that. It could be that way. It could be a per event fee, it could be a per month fee. I’m not entirely sure, but as an event organizer, I need to know either one, how this plays into my revenue strategy for the event and how it’s going to recoup the cost for me or two in and of itself. I don’t know. It’s just I through human nature, I worry that people will be hesitant to use it if they don’t already have like a fairly large budget to throw out something anyway, which that probably has its own size. That market. Maybe that’s 50 percent of that 75 percent of the market and the concern I’m talking about is this lower 25 percent of the market who run smaller events and have smaller budgets. For someone who running a conference, it may not be a concern whatsoever. They may say 500 bucks, a thousand bucks, a thousand bucks, 2000 bucks. That’s one person with one booth. That’s fine. So that’s fine. But a 4.6 billion dollar total addressable market. I want to know what percentage of that are these smaller organizers with small budgets?
Eric Hornung: 01:24:06
Yeah, so the. She gave us some insight into that and there are three verticals. There were conferences and conventions which were anywhere from 25 people to thousands of people. There’s higher ed, which is either from an organizational and institutional level or greek life. Most fraternities are in the hundreds plus and then there’s business enterprise and this one is a little, I think a little different than the other two. But that’s depend. Is it, you know, your entire salesforce is coming in for a national sales meeting or is it your product management team which has engineers and salespeople who are going to meet or it’s, you know, we’re to take the, the office out to lunch or dinner or happy hour that that could kind of probably vary, but those were kind of the three areas they focus in. So it sounds like to me they’re focusing on more of these large organizations, which is why the idea of a sales funnel is something I asked a question about in the interview because the larger the organization just general rule of thumb, the larger the organization, the longer the sales funnel, it’s very rare that you’re going to sell into a very large organization quickly and that might be why they kind of focus so much on keeping full time salespeople on and why they started in 2014 and they’re developing this over time is because these verticals take a little bit more time.
Jay Clouse: 01:25:28
Yeah, I would agree with that. Also playing along with the sas model in sales cycles, there are other sas models out there where you have more of a freemium approach. Maybe instead of having name, email and 10 questions for the event organizer, you have name and email in one question for the event organizer and you can do that for free for any size event, but if you want to collect more information and improve your matches and improve the experience, you pay whatever the fee is to upgrade. I think that becomes something that’s easier to onboard people into and get them trying because event organizers often are part of larger networks and so if it works at my columbus startup weekend, it’s going to work at the denver startup weekend at the chicago startup weekend and we’ll. We’ll share it that way. You wouldn’t necessarily need a sales team and then all of those people who experienced mixtroz through those events, even if it is the freemium model, now they are your distributed sales force going back to their organizations talking about this experience they had with mixtroz. You know, she talked about that being their best sales mechanism.
Eric Hornung: 01:26:31
I think I want to dive a little bit into shadows before we get to kind of what is the upside here for from extra I was and what we see is the play, just as a reminder to everyone. Shadows are things that could provide a little bit of caution or they don’t mind just be nothing and it comes from a story that we told back on episode six, seven back in a previous episode. So my biggest shadow right now is I’m a numbers guy. I would like to understand how utilizing this platform is going to increase user satisfaction. I didn’t really hear any of those numbers. I know they’re in beta, but that really didn’t come out. The idea is solid to me philosophically, but I would’ve liked to hear, oh, noise volume increases 36 per cent and we measured that or people when they leave events are more likely to be engaged and here’s the number that that supports that that we do based on survey is based on results are based on people we talked to and I know that that’s just a measuring issue and it might just be because there’s only two of them and they’re so focused on sales, but they’re not focused on analytics. But that to me would be so much more helpful and saying, oh jay, your startup weekend people compared to previous years, people got like 80 percent more validation or 80 percent more engagement.
Jay Clouse: 01:27:56
It could even be talking to these organizations and saying, okay, you’ve probably run this, organize this event in the past. What was your nps score? Can we attribute some increase in nps score from having used mixtroz at this past event that you did? It did seem like they had good retention, if you want to call it retention or at least re reuse numbers, which is promising, you know as that number is, the number of uses approaches a larger scale, it’ll probably revert to some sort of mean. That’s a little bit more depth, more indicative.
Eric Hornung: 01:27:56
What is an nps score?
Jay Clouse: 01:28:30
Net promoter score. After most events, there will be a very simple survey using the net promoter score method that asks people on a scale from one to 10, how likely are you to recommend this to a friend or colleague and you really only count nines and tens. As promoters, sevens and eights are average, and one through six are detractors. People who are gonna more than likely damage your event from word of mouth. So it’s a kind of a golden standard in terms of vitality and whether or not people will spread your product or service by word of mouth and as an event organizer, you usually follow up the event with some variation of an nps survey to ask about people’s experience as
Eric Hornung: 01:29:17
well Jay, what do you see as the upside here?
Jay Clouse: 01:29:19
I’m gonna throw a wildcard at you. I think the upside here could be a data play for these organizers who were collecting up to 10 different data points outside of name and email in what is probably extremely niche events. You know my buddy tom, who runs grip matt, this a company that sells nonslip tool trays for airplanes essentially airplane mechanics. He’s going to all of these extremely niche conferences for car hobbyists, aerospace engineering. Those people have very specific interests and collecting some of those interests in the survey could probably be very valuable to certain trade organizations. Something they said they don’t do intentionally is included third party data, which I think is a good, if I’m talking as a humanist, good could be a good marketing point. I also think it could be kind of a missed opportunity, especially if you’re going to augment some of this original data that you can collect in this application. I think honestly that some of that, maybe that’s part of the sas model, you know it’s you’re not paying for use of the tool. You’re paying for a breakdown of the data that you collect using the tool that then you can monetize yourself with the meeting attendees and most of these conferences you end up scanning a badge. Somebody has their badge for that event, you have a mobile app, you scan the badge, you get a bunch of information about that person and if they’re entering that into the app too, that becomes valuable to people at that conference. I think. I don’t know. That’s my wild card. Here’s where I think a lot of upside could be. Throw will actually let you go ahead with your upside before I throw in any anymore thought.
Eric Hornung: 01:31:04
So the thing I like about this space is that the idea is flexible and what I mean by that is she said that the mixtroz, it can be used anywhere or 25 or more people gather and that’s kind of like, it’s kind of fascinating because it gives you, well it’s a double edged sword. It gives you the flexibility to move where the market is biggest best and where your idea kind of takes off so you can kind of beta test in different verticals. So if she wanted to beta test weddings or wanting to beta test funerals and then all of a sudden you get to a critical mass where you’re doing 80 percent of weddings, well now you’re a wedding company that can do all this. But on the other side there can be a lack of focus when something is so flexible. So it’s really, really nice that her mom is an enterprise hr manager or was an enterprise hr manager because that gives them kind of a anchor spot in my opinion, to move forward with mixtroz in the enterprise hr play. That can be kind of their cornerstone while they figure out who they really are and what their market is, so I think that that’s the upside. The upside is that they have this base that they know that they can pursue. They know that they can speak to the people and if they know that they can do it well and maybe there’s somewhere else that can go because of this flexible idea, but they have that baseline to to grow and develop it.
Jay Clouse: 01:32:28
Going to give you a double sided coin here of opportunity and a shadow. I really
Eric Hornung: 01:32:33
shadows aren’t. That’s what shadows are. Oh no, nothing. Sorry. My bad.
Jay Clouse: 01:32:39
What I could. What I really liked again is this talk about how well this dovetails with a ticketing technology for events. Totally agree and I think that makes it a good acquisition target for some of these. It also makes the tool something that could be developed by those ticketing software’s potentially as well. And I mean anytime there’s an exit, it’s a question of do we build this ourselves or do we buy it? Which is more expensive. And so again, for that conversation to swing into a, it’s more valuable to buy this, they either have to have a lot of proprietary technology buildup or the asset of a user base and you know at this point event bright has the asset of user base. People are already going through it. They’re buying tickets. You get an email saying, hey, here are your tickets by the way, download the event brite mobile app. They get if, if the technology is proprietary and in great, implemented into event bright, but they could also build it technically.
Eric Hornung: 01:33:40
Yeah, of course there are three things that I want to look for in the next six to 18 months from mixtroz. Those are one. Do they solidify some sort of, whether it’s loose or exclusive or whatever partnership with an event bright or with a, you know, a ticket master or with a meetup.com or something like that. Do they solidify some sort of partnership model where they are the preferred provider of whatever service? I think that that would be. That would be huge obviously. Then getting out of beta is huge, but we’ll get past that. We’ll assume that that’s going to happen. So does that partnership happen? The second point actually kits to exactly what you just said, which is their depth of their competitive advantage right now. She even said in the space there are a lot of people the same thesis as them. They have a proprietary algorithm and I think it’s going to come down to the user experience of using mixtroz. If people just like love that user experience, this is my two cents. It could be something else. It could be the technical, it could be the technology underneath though I don’t think it will be. It could be something else and then finally the solidification of what’s important to them from a kpi perspective. What right now the not the only number that she mentioned that was they really think about is their user adoption number, which is downloads divided by total attendees. That to me seems important. Yes, but they’re. There might, there might be some other things that they can measure or think about that are going to give them more insights and allow them to refine this product to a point that it has a depth of competitive advantage and it has this ability to go to event brite and say, look at how much better events are when people use mixtroz.
Jay Clouse: 01:35:31
I agree with those things. I feel like I came across this little damper on this, but it’s because I love the idea. I love the team as it stands and I see this as a little bit of a window opportunity because take take these bird scooters that are everywhere, right? I can’t believe that technology which has existed since I think 2006 is what I found is just now being deployed and mass around these cities and now it’s like an arms race to fund these things and get them in every market between bird and lime. Let’s say. Let’s. Let’s make the bold call of comParing this to bird. Now the idea is out there, how can you continue to innovate and beat the competition, whether it’s existing competition or potential entrance, and I think it comes from technology, so to me what I’m looking for is how. How is there team growing to accommodate their technology needs to innovate? How is their user base growing, especially if the people who interact with mixtroz that you come to, the best salespeople for mixtroz, you want to start scaling the events here in as quickly as possible. I think that’s a question that has to marry with their model, whether it’s sas or a freemium sas, whatever they do. I think user acquisitions going to be really important in this so they don’t just get squeezed out by someone else who has a complimentary technology that says, oh, well this would be a good feature addition to our product.
Eric Hornung: 01:36:58
All right, jay. Well I think we had a fun one here. We had a clevelander on those. She is, you know, nashville and birmingham, but I’ll still counter as cleveland. I had a great time on this podcast. How about you?
Jay Clouse: 01:37:10
Same. Same. Actually, it was delightful. I’m glad you took the time. Glad we finally got another female founder on here. Eric, a point of focus here for us moving forward.
Eric Hornung: 01:37:20
Well, we had a quad outsider. That’s. That’s big for us.
Jay Clouse: 01:37:23
That’s true. That’s true. We are very much insiders.
Eric Hornung: 01:37:27
Jay, where can people find more about us?
Jay Clouse: 01:37:29
If you guys have an idea for a guest for our show or if you have feedback on this episode, we’d love to hear it. Tweet at us @upsidefm or email us Hello@upside.fm. Pretty easy to get ahold of eric and I. If you want to hit us personally, and if you enjoyed the show, please do leave us a review on itunes. That means a lot for us and bringing on high quality guest to the show and I almost forgot breaker are preferred podcasting platform. If you guyS thoughts, you can comment directly on this episode on breaker and eric and I are usually in there hanging out with you.
Eric Hornung: 01:38:02
I think jay meant hit us up, not hit us. If you want to hit us, you’re gonna. That’s gonna. Be a little harder.
Jay Clouse: 01:38:08
All right, talk to you guys next week. That’s all for this week. Thanks for listening. We’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s guest, so shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find us on twitter @upsidefm will be back here next week at the same time talking to another founder and our quest to find upside outside of silicon valley. If you or someone you know would make a good guest for our show, please email us or find us on twitter and let us know and if you love our show, please leave us a review on itunes. That goes a long way in helping us spread the word and continue to help bring high quality guests to the show. Eric and I decided there were a couple things we wanted to share with you at the end of the podcast, and so here we go. Eric Hornung and Jay Clouse are the founding partners of the upside podcAst. At the time of this recording, we do not own equity or other financial interest in the companies which appear on this show. All opinions expressed by podcast participants are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinions of duff and phelps llc and its affiliates on your collective llc and its affiliates or any entity which employ us. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. We have not considered your specific financial situation nor provided any investment advice on the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.
Ashlee Ammons is the cofounder and COO of Mixtroz. previously, Ashlee began in a career as an Events Producer working with an impressive list of people including Oprah Winfrey, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jay-Z and large brands like Moët Hennessy and Coca-Cola.
the Mixtroz mobile app makes meeting at live events easier, more effective, and efficient. Mixtroz is the 2018 Rise of the Rest Birmingham champion and based in Birmingham, AL.
learn more about Mixtroz: https://www.mixtroz.com/